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China, Canada partner on six-storey wood-frame demonstration project

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by Richard Gilbert

The governments of China, Canada and British Columbia have signed an agreement to build a six-storey, wood-frame demonstration structure in Beijing.

The governments of China, Canada and British Columbia have signed an agreement to build a six-storey, wood-frame demonstration structure in Beijing.

“This is an attempt to show the Chinese what is achievable with wood construction and do it in a segment that is high density with a lot of apartment structures,” said Paul Newman, Council of Forest Industries (COFI) executive director, market access and trade.

“One key reason, we are looking at Beijing is that it has a harsh climate, which will allow us to demonstrate the thermal energy savings that can be achieved from building with wood.”

The five-year agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development was signed in Beijing during a recent trade mission to promote the sale of B.C. wood products in China.

“This agreement will help China adapt our systems to their unique needs and, in the process, open up the Chinese market to more Canadian lumber and wood products,” said Christian Paradis, Canada’s minister of natural resources.

The deal includes the construction of a commercially developed six-storey structure to demonstrate wood-frame design to Chinese developers, officials and consumers.

Construction of the building will cost between $5 million and $6 million, and will be financed by the governments of Canada and B.C.

China will supply the land.

Newman said that the efforts to build wood structures in China are being done at the same time that negotiations are taking place with the ministry of public safety fire bureau to change the nation’s fire code.

“Up until the present time the fire code has limited construction to three stories from grade,” he said. “We know we are on the cusp of getting relaxations in the fire code. They will have the height level for wood construction increased to six stories and allow wood trusses for buildings up to nine stories.”

Six-storey housing represents 60 to 70 per cent of all residential construction in China, which is expected to have 10 million housing starts this year.

Almost all of that construction uses concrete.

China is the fastest growing export market for Canadian wood products, with most of the lumber sourced from B.C. In 2009, B.C. lumber exports to China reached 1.63 billion board feet, double the volume of 2008, and were valued at $328 million.

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